Questionnaire (guideline for discussion with the different stakeholders)
What are the activities of the company in the fields of restructuring and working conditions in the context of outsourcing?
It is important to take into account not only activities explicitly called CSR, but also those, which can be considered as particularly good practices.
Do you have an internal definition of CSR? Wherefrom? Do all employees know about this definition?
What kind of CSR tools are being applied? Are there any set tools, how could they be described?
Describe the (quality of) social dialogue covering all aspects of working conditions and employment.
Describe the promotion of employability and lifelong learning of employees at all times?
Describe how the workforce has been prepared and equipped for managing change?
Describe policies to achieve equality and equal treatment.
What do the expressions “employability”, “entrepreneurship”, “adaptability” and “equal opportunities” mean to you?
Which importance does the term CSR have in your company?
Is there a pressure (which driving forces?) from outside? Is it a unilateral decision from the employer?
Have there been bad practices before? Or was there a tradition of CSR(but under a different name?)
Is there a financial interest? In this case, will CSR continue in periods of economic crisis?
Is CSR part of a “social-marketing” approach of the company?
Which factors have caused your engagement and which have made it easier to do so?
Which effect has CSR in times of restructuring?
Does this engagement have any effect on the relationship with your suppliers?
Is it a decision from the employer? Are the social partners involved? What is the role of NGOs? What is the role of public authorities at the national and European level?
Elaboration: Is it a unilateral decision ? Is it collective bargaining?
Implementation: How are the ideas becoming reality ?
Did you set indicators to measure CSR?
Control: How to be sure they are reality?
Are there annual reports on working conditions and employment? Which kind of documentation exists on the measures that have been implemented? Are there any secondary sources (not just marketing material from the company, but newspaper reports, other background information?)
How is CSR used: As a Conflict management or mediation device?
What is the effectiveness of these practices?
Paul BLYTON and Kate BRADBURY
(Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University)
In this report, we initially provide an overview of the state of corporate social responsibility (CSR) development at company level in the UK, in order to establish a context in which to view the cases analysed (Corus and Tesco). The overall picture is one of restricted development of CSR to date, but with signs of increased activity recently. We also comment on the development of how CSR is defined (though no single common definition of CSR prevails in the UK) and evaluate the question of the relationship (if any) between CSR and company performance/profitability.
In the UK, the notion of CSR has only begun to gain purchase comparatively recently. A degree of government activity (the organisation of conferences, establishment of working parties, appointment of a government minister with responsibility for CSR issues) has become apparent (see Aaronson and Reeves, 2002); so has the growth of organisations promoting CSR, along with the expansion of business school courses on issues such as corporate ethics, sustainability, etc. However, the infancy of the subject is one of the factors explaining the still low level of reporting of CSR initiatives by individual UK firms, as identified in a large-scale company survey conducted for the present project (and reported in more detail below). This survey also reveals that even among those companies already known for having a social/community agenda, specifically CSR-defined activities have not yet come to be widely reported. Further, where CSR initiatives are reported, these are largely focused on the firm’s external relations (such as with the environment, local communities or overseas suppliers) rather than initiatives relating to internal issues such as working conditions of employees. However, a minority of cases can be identified which exhibit significant interest in both internal as well as external CSR initiatives. Examples of these are discussed in more detail below.
Before examining the overall CSR picture across the UK, and then highlighting the activities occurring in certain company cases, it is useful to review briefly the origins and development concept of CSR within the English language literature, together with the important question of the relationship (if any) between level of CSR activity and company profitability.
As in countries such as the US, there is as yet no single, commonly-accepted definition of CSR operating in the UK. Overall in Europe, the concept appears to have developed from a largely US debate on firms’ social responsibility, the discussion of which goes back at least as far as the 1950s and 60s. In 1960, for example, Davis was referring to a company’s social responsibility in terms of ‘decisions and actions taken for reasons at least partially beyond the firm’s direct economic or technical interest’ (1960: 70). At a similar time, McGuire identified a company’s social responsibilities as ‘certain responsibilities to society which extend beyond…[its] economic and legal obligations’ (1963: 144), whilst Davis and Blomstrom (1966: 12) discussed a firm’s social responsibility in terms of ‘consider[ing] the effects of … decisions and actions on the whole social system’. The influence of these early definitions can be seen in current definitions of CSR such as ‘CSR [comprises] actions that appear to further some social good, beyond the interests of the firm and that which is required by law’ (McWilliams and Siegel, 2001: 117).
Given the way that the debate has developed in the UK, it is significant that as early as the 1970s, Johnson and others in the United States were discussing the importance of recognising the legitimacy of different interests within and beyond the company: ‘A socially responsible firm is one whose managerial staff balances a multiplicity of interests’ (Johnson, 1971: 50; see also, Carroll, 1999). This notion of multiple interests re-emerged strongly in the UK in the mid-1990s with the notion of a ‘stakeholder economy’ – a notion championed by a former newspaper editor and government adviser Will Hutton in his book The State We’re In. The central theme of this book was the need to balance the interests of different stakeholders within contemporary capitalism.
Yet, despite this attracting much interest and comment within the post-1997 Labour government, the notion of a stakeholder society can be seen to have diminished somewhat in the UK in the years since 1997. This is partly, argue Roberts and Kynaston (2001) because those European economies where a social agenda has been more explicit than in the UK, have in recent years performed somewhat less well than the more deregulated (and more nakedly capitalist) Anglo-Saxon economies of the USA and UK. As a result, say these and other commentators, the significance attaching to claims of different stakeholders has diminished compared to the importance given to markets and the primacy of shareholders. This is exemplified in the growing prominence that has been given to the notion of ‘shareholder value’ in recent years, which has replaced ‘stakeholders’ in discussions regarding the central purposes of organisations and the primary interest that companies serve. As Hutton himself has subsequently written (quoted in Roberts and Kynaston, 2001) ‘Chief executive officers know that, while they talk the language of corporate social responsibility, the real game is keeping up their share price’.
Thus, if one of the reasons why the debate on CSR has been muted in the UK is because of the infancy of the topic, another is that it may be associated more with the concept of stakeholders, and fit less comfortably with the increasingly prominent notion of shareholder value. Yet, the implied (negative) relationship between CSR and profitability that is assumed in this is not necessarily the case, as a growing number of UK firms appear to recognise. Before examining these firms, in the next section we briefly review the debate (or that part occurring in the English language literature) on whether CSR contributes positively or negatively to profits and shareholder value.